First time buyers very aware of building energy ratings

First time buyers tend to be unimpressed if a refurbished house has a low rating, says estate agent


First-time buyers take BER ratings, “absolutely seriously”,says Martin Doyle of Sherry FitzGerald, and it has a lot to do with their demographic. “First-time buyers tend to be younger and are very conscious of energy ratings in buildings. It’s a big thing for them.”

 But buyers are realistic about period property, he says. “If it is in really bad condition, that doesn’t matter.” The fact that some listed or other buildings don’t require a BER is accepted by people who know that they will be doing it up anyway and adding insulation and so on.

What doesn’t impress people is if a house, whether newer or a period home, has been refurbished and still has a low rating, because they face having to do it all again. “They would be concerned about that,” says Doyle.

Houses built more recently are also expected to come up to scratch, with a good rating. “People are disappointed if it hasn’t,” says Doyle pointing out that all new-builds, although still thin on the ground, need to have a high rating by law.

However once people have committed to viewing a house they don’t tend to negotiate a price down due to a BER, perhaps because they accept that the home has been valued with this is mind. But a low BER can put some off viewing in the first place.

If they take on a renovation project buyers understand that raising the BER is part of it, says Doyle. They still negotiate if there is a poor survey though.

A good rating will also help sell a house if it can be compared directly with another of a lower rating in the same area, says BER assessor Lorcan Downey.

Most three-bed semis built before the late 1990s, judging by BERs done so far, have an average of a D or E rating, he says.

The cost of reducing energy bills and upping the comfort levels – and getting a higher BER – varies through low-cost measures such as lagging a boiler and putting in low-energy bulbs (about €50) to insulating walls, attic and even floors.

The first two low-cost measures, which people can do themselves, may not increase a rating – it all depends on the house, floor area and so on. A BER assessor will check around 80 things overall, taking about two hours, and put them through special software to get the rating.

What will lift a BER are increasing the insulation in attics and walls, zoning heating and hot water and installing an energy-efficient boiler.

Wall insulation varies depending on the type of construction. Pumping it into cavity walls costs between €700-€1,000, adding internal insulation is around €7,000-€10,000, while external insulation can cost from €10,000-20,000. All of the measures qualify for grants from the SEAI (seai.ie) whose website also has more detailed information on the costs of each upgrade (as long as you use a registered builder).

Insulating the roof and walls and adding in a boiler (€2,000-€3,000) could take the rating into the Cs, says Downey. To get an A rating the house would need a complete overall including digging up the floors and insulating those; not something to be undertaken lightly.

“Seven years ago there was nothing to gauge one house from another,” says Downey. ”Now it’s easy to compare, even if you are just renting, and ensure your bills will be lower.”